A microcosm of transformation

Those who have been using this Talking Money series as a guidebook for group discussion probably think they’re just about to wrap it up. But, folks, now you can see you’re just getting started.

Let’s consider two historic icons of financial success, Donald Trump and Howard Hughes. Despite his colossal bankruptcy and ego, many Americans and the popular press have held Trump in awe, bedazzled by his “Art of the Deal” frenetic game executed with no regard to ethical outcome. Nearby is the fiscal tightness of Hughes, the billionaire investor who wound up fearing everything.

I’ll throw another model into the mix, Lisa Johnson’s self-help book, How To Marry a Millionaire – complete, I’m not kidding, with dinner recipes.

In the upside-down realm of spiritual faith, however, stands Jim Corbett and his goatwalking times of sabbatical-reflection. There, too, are Malden Mills president Aaron Feuerstein, who kept employment in the community after his textiles mill burned, and developer Jim Rouse’s “moral leadership that swept traditional barriers aside,” as longtime neighbor Padriac Kennedy saw it.

To acknowledge money as part of our spiritual quest means having faith as weaddress seemingly impossible considerations in our use of the resources entrusted to us. We can now place our wealth in relation to:

  • Implications in regard to the Third World.
  • America’s own maturing, rather than expanding, economy.
  • The macro-economic/micro-economics dilemma, in which strategies that benefit you individually may short-change the commonwealth.
  • Poverty, both in our own localities and around the globe.
  • Children and their allowances.
  • Environmental impact.
  • Frugality and “living without a salary.”
  • Being bound up as a slave or as a slave-owner in a violent society.
  • Ways our possessions instigate repression of the have-nots.
  • Being free to maximize our potential as human beings.
  • Striking balances in which everyone – young and old, here and abroad – maximizes his or her potential.

When we step away from the assumptions of the society we live in, we can perceive many hidden costs to our existence. We detect how inextricably money is woven through the affairs of post-primitive or non-tribal society. Our civilization itself might be inconceivable without the extraordinary exchanges that currency facilitates. Our universities, laboratories, government, factories, agriculture, transportation, and health systems are all built on opportunities that money permits.

The more far-flung and less locally focused our economies become, the more likely we are to lose sight of mutuality: we become blinded at the bottom line. That’s why it remains crucial that we find ways to take a regular timeout from the demands of industrial civilization. A year or even a regular day of true sabbatical will release you from preoccupations and an encroaching bondage to consumerism; fasting, too, or journeys into wilderness can renew you in freedom and wonder. Rather than demanding a forfeiture of one’s wealth, as commonly perceived, the concept of sacrifice instead imposes an awareness that makes all the resources at our disposal holy and sacred; they are gifts worthy of thanksgiving and of being shared, “equipping God’s people for works of service” (Ephesians 4:12). This kind of sacrifice becomes an occasion of celebration.


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